Mike and Dave Stangle put the “bro” in brothers. Twenty-something liquor salesmen, they’re the life of the party – but also the death of it – having turned a perfectly lovely Fourth of July fireworks spectacle into a conflagration while endangering innocent bystanders with over-the-top trampoline acrobatics. They just don’t know when to say when.
The movie they’re in is similarly afflicted.
Starring Adam Devine and Zac Efron as the titular duo, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is uproarious and flamboyantly raunchy, utterly stupid yet also occasionally winning. You’ll laugh, but you might feel bad for doing it: Amusement is a form of approval, and do we really want to encourage such filth?
Directed by Jake Szymanski, the movie opens as Mike and Dave are preparing for the wedding of their beloved little sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard), who’s getting hitched to Eric (Sam Richardson) in Hawaii. Justifiably convinced that the brothers will ruin yet another classy affair, Jeanie, Eric and the elder Stangles (Stephen Root and Stephanie Faracy) stage an intervention.
For some reason, the foursome thinks that female companions will keep the guys from their usual attention-seeking antics. Mike and Dave unenthusiastically agree to the terms.
One viral Craigslist ad later, and the brothers are barraged with emails from women hoping for a free beach vacation. Cue the predictable montage: a parade of blind dates that all turn out to be duds, in the extreme.
Just as the brothers are losing hope, they hit the jackpot. Alice (Anna Kendrick) has a nice smile and runs a hedge fund and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) is a schoolteacher who makes a lavish display of sucking on a No. 2 pencil. Mike and Dave are too distracted by their good fortune to notice the red flags: Alice doesn’t actually know what a hedge fund is, and Tatiana’s good-girl persona comes and goes. The four are soon headed to Hawaii for what’s supposed to be a sedate wedding where everything goes according to plan.
It turns out that Alice and Tatiana are actually recently fired waitresses who spend their days drinking, smoking weed and getting into trouble. The two women are instigators, setting off a series of events that include a bad Ecstasy trip, a horse stampede and an ATV accident. Nothing says “laugh riot” like a near-fatal injury.
Oddly enough, the movie has a pseudo-feminist heart. The message, which has all the subtlety of a slap to the face, is that girls can be just as grotesque, offensive and self-centered as guys. It’s no surprise that screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien also wrote “Neighbors 2,” built on a similar premise. And yet the ladies aren’t nearly as amusing or interesting as their male counterparts. So much for equal opportunity.
Alice is funny enough, with her tendency to tell preposterous lies. But Tatiana is hard to take. She’s a selfish downer with few redeeming qualities, and Plaza’s distractingly trashy accent – a strenuous attempt to prove she’s a bad girl deep down – doesn’t help. Efron, who is well on his way to establishing his comedy chops, doesn’t disappoint as the hotter, dumber Stangle. Devine, meanwhile, lands plenty of solid punch lines despite his default performance mode: screaming. It gets old fast.
Some of the best humor come from the supporting cast. During one especially hilarious sight gag, Jeanie gets a massage from a therapist (Kumail Nanjiani) who strips down, covers himself in oil and proceeds to give her the strangest, most transcendent deep-tissue work you can possibly imagine. Except you’d be wrong: It’s a perfect example of the movie doing what it does best.
The movie doesn’t really level the playing field for men and women. It’s bizarre and vulgar, but also too funny to resist.
Two and one-half stars. Rated R. Contains crude sexual humor, vulgar language throughout, drug use and some graphic nudity. 98 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.